LONG BEACH, Calif. April 18, 2015—An untimely red flag proved pivotal in the Round 1 Group 2 qualifying session for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this afternoon.
Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato were starting on the first of their two hot laps which would have been a true indication of where they stacked up after a productive morning practice session. However, neither driver was able to complete a hot lap as the crash by rookie Stefano Coletti brought out the red flag and sent everyone to the pits, thus allowing the track crew to remove the car and debris from the track. The session was cut short before many drivers had posted their best time on the alternate (red-rimmed), softer compound tires.
Hawksworth, who will start 16th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda, said, “We didn’t get the chance to put a time in because we were unlucky with the red flag situation. The car felt pretty decent this morning and I think we made the right changes for qualifying. I don’t think we would have been top three or four but I do think we could have been in the third or fourth row. Disappointing not to get a go, and see where we were at. But we came from the back at St. Pete, so hopefully we can come through tomorrow.”
Sato, who had been struggling to find the sweet spot in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda yesterday, felt they had made gains in the morning practice session.
“Another disappointing day,” said Sato, who will start 20th, right behind defending Series champion Will Power, who was also caught out by the red flag. “We tried various different setups in practice three to find good grip and balance and I think we made good improvement,” Sato continued. “I was quite looking forward to qualifying. Unfortunately, the red flag came out and qualifying finished before I was able to try for a fast lap. That was a shame.”
Helio Castroneves won the pole with a new track record time of 1 minute, 6.62 seconds (106.331mph) around the 1.968-mile street circuit. He was followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Simon Pagenaud.
There will be a 30-minute morning warmup when teams can fine-tune their race setup. The race will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network starting at 4 p.m. ET.